Classic Kraft blue box Mac & Cheese can be found in almost any pantry, even more so in households with kids. I didn’t really get hooked on it until college when it was put into my menu rotation of ramen, canned soup, and scrambled egg sandwiches. While it is straightforward, there is still something comforting in a bowl of cheesy orange goodness and, of course, it’s easy on the wallet. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to making boxed mac and cheese better from adjusting the basic cooking methods to adding interesting ingredients to create more of a meal.
10 Easy Ways How to Make Boxed Mac and Cheese Better
- Salt the water – One of the best things you can do for pasta is to add salt to the water. This is the only time any flavor is going to get into the noodles.
- ‘Under cook’ the pasta – The familiar Italian term is ‘al dente,’ which means to leave the texture a bit firmer. The Kraft box recommends seven and a half minutes, I go for a minute or so less. It is a bit more satisfying to eat when your teeth have something to actually chew.
- Eyeball it – Stop following the directions and live a little. Boxed mac and cheese this an easy dish for beginning cooks to learn how to adjust and substitute ingredients to suit their own taste. Personally, I like less butter and more milk in my Mac & Cheese.
- Don’t rinse the noodles – Pasta gives off a good bit of starch into the water while boiling. Don’t rinse the noodles after cooking so that they retain as much starch as possible and create a better sauce.
- Sprinkle the Herbs & Spices – Adding even just a pinch of dried dill will boost the flavor of your boxed mac and cheese. Experiment with different fresh or dried herbs to see what flavors appeal to you. Try dill, parsley, mustard powder, or even nutmeg for something new.
- Cheese it Up – Mix up something more than just the cheddar cheese powder in the box. Add grated Parmesan to amplify the flavor, shredded American or Mozzarella for a gooey mac & cheese, or get crazy and crumble some blue cheese on top.
- Add-Ins – Want to make a casserole without the extra work? Mix in some extra ingredients to your pot of mac and cheese. Try tuna & peas, diced chicken, or crumbed bacon. Make it Taco style with ground beef and beans, then top with shredded lettuce, salsa, and sour cream. Get creative with leftovers!
- Speed it up – You’d be surprised, but boxed mac and cheese can be made even quicker and with less fuss. We ran some experiments and found making our usual two boxes of Kraft Dinner in the pressure cooker shaved off three minutes (including pressurization time) and required no babysitting while boiling. Click here for my Instant Pot Mac & Cheese Instructions.
- Buy Your Own Stuff – It is amazing what you can find on Amazon. Powdered Cheddar cheese, just like in the little packet, is available in larger quantities. Order a one pound container of cheese powder and now you can use whatever sort of pasta your heart desires. This Hoosier Farms Big Daddy Mac cheese powder works well as a substitute for the Kraft mix, plus it is excellent to sprinkle on other foods like popcorn or fresh steamed veggies. Hoosier Hill Farm Big Daddy Mac Mix is available from Amazon.
- Fried Mac & Cheese Patties – Turn your leftover mac & cheese into a tasty appetizer. All you need is to create a quick breading and fry it in a skillet. It’s not often we have leftover mac and cheese, so I purposely make a box just for this application.
Fried Mac and Cheese Patties
- Ingredients: Leftover mac & cheese, flour, egg, breadcrumbs, oil for pan.
Form mac & cheese into patties. It is easier to do this when cold. If planning ahead, line an 8×8 casserole dish with parchment paper and spread the mac & cheese evenly, then just cut into squares when ready to cook. These can also be made into golf ball size pieces as an appetizer.
- Crack egg into bowl and beat. Season flour with salt & pepper and put on plate. Do the same for breadcrumbs.
- Dust patty with flour, then dip in egg mixture, then into breadcrumbs to coat. Let rest a few minutes on a cookie rack.
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Place patties in skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides.